How do you refer to these circles by tea cups? Suppose, I want to say an office boy, how should I say it precisely. I'm stuck because I don't want to call it as 'spilled' tea. Nor do I refer them to drops of tea. Those are tea rings by mugs/cups. Are they stains....so clean this tea cup stains? Cup stains?

Hey, could you please clean this _________________?

I'm talking about this

tea cup circles

Is there any term for that? How do natives say this?


2 Answers 2


As a native speaker, I would use one of the terms you've mentioned - I would definitely call it a tea ring. According to Google Ngrams, cup ring has enjoyed widespread usage, but I personally would consider that as an inferior option to a "<beverage> ring" formula.

  • I thought so! But then, I am confused whether to blame a cup or tea! Said that... tea rings or cup rings or tea-cup rings! haha... but thanks for the input! +1
    – Maulik V
    Dec 15, 2014 at 9:13
  • Hey, this is nice: search google image for the phrase tea ring stains I wonder ...is that the answer?
    – Maulik V
    Dec 15, 2014 at 9:17
  • 1
    A stain is generally something more permanent - while it's liquid and easily cleaned up, it's not really a stain yet. For the dried out and hard to remove versions - sure stain is appropriate. Dec 15, 2014 at 9:20
  • 1
    Cup ring has a major advantage in that it doesn't require knowing what beverage made the mess. Looking at the image, there's nothing in it to indicate that the mess was made by tea, not coffee, cola, hot chocolate, or some other brown liquid. Dec 15, 2014 at 14:17

They are "spilled tea". (This is one reason that tea sets include both teacups and saucers.)

Dogbert (facetiously) calls them "brown rings of quality".

If (and only if) the "brown rings of quality" cannot be easily washed off, then they are "stains".

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